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Accepted Scientific Name: Leuchtenbergia principis Hook.
Curtis's Botanical Magazine 74: pi. 4393. 1848; et: Salm-Dyck. Cact. 177 (1850) Curtis
Origin and Habitat: The odd crested forms are extremely rare and may appear both on seedling batches in a very small percentage and in habitat too.
Leuchtenbergia principis Hook.
Curtis's Botanical Magazine 74: pi. 4393. 1848; et: Salm-Dyck. Cact. 177 (1850)
- Leuchtenbergia principis Hook.
- Anhalonium leuchtenbergii A.Dietr.
- Leuchtenbergia principis f. cristata hort.
- Leuchtenbergia principis f. monstruosa hort.
- Leuchtenbergia principis tariapensis
- Leuchtenbergia principis var. trachythele
Description: The typical Leuchtenbergia principis is a is a unique looking cactus with very long tubercles, making the plant resemble an agave. It is slow-growing but can eventually grow up to 70 cm high. It has a large, tuberous taproot.
Crested form: The odd crested form is very rare and cultivated for its beautiful stem with slender, greyish-green to bluish-green tubercles, triangular in cross-section with the tips cut off, 6-15 cm long, with purplish-red blotches at their tips. These crested plants occasionally produce normal shoots. Flowers are produced on the the apex of younger tubercles. Crested specimens are often grafted on stronger species, called the stock, that can be any number of different columnar cactus.
Subspecies, varieties, forms and cultivars of plants belonging to the Leuchtenbergia principis group
- Leuchtenbergia principis Hook.: It has long, slender, bluish-green triangular tubercles 6-15 cm long, tipped by equally long papery spines making the plant resemble an agave. It has a large, tuberous taproot. Older plant forms a short cylindrical shaped stem. It is unlike anything else.
- Leuchtenbergia principis f. cristata hort.: Crested form.
- Leuchtenbergia principis f. monstruosa hort.: This is an heavy clumping (monstrous) cultivar, with small and densely branched heads at the tip of each tubercle.
- Leuchtenbergia principis tariapensis: This is a smaller form with very thin and long tubrecles.
- Leuchtenbergia principis var. trachythele: The "trachythele" variety is reported to be distinguished from standard "Leuchtembergia principis" by its rough, sandpaper-like epidermis.
Bibliography: Major references and further lectures
1) James Cullen, Sabina G. Knees, H. Suzanne Cubey “The European Garden Flora Flowering Plants: A Manual for the Identification of Plants Cultivated in Europe, Both Out-of-Doors and Under Glass” Cambridge University Press, 11/Aug./2011
2) David Hunt, Nigel Taylor “The New Cactus Lexicon” DH Books, 2006
3) Edward F. Anderson “The Cactus Family” Timber Press, 2001
4) Nathaniel Lord Britton, Joseph Nelson Rose “Cactaceae: Descriptions and Illustrations of Plants of the Cactus Family” Volume 3, 1922
5) Fitz Maurice, B & Fitz Maurice, W.A. 2013. Leuchtenbergia principis. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2014.2. <www.iucnredlist.org>. Downloaded on 10 September 2014.
Cultivation and Propagation: It is not too difficult in a greenhouse, although grows quite slowly. It is usually seen as a grafted plant but can grow on its own roots too.
Soil: Use a mineral well permeable soil with little organic matter (peat, humus).
Exposure: They need a good amount of light shade to full sun this help to keep the plants healthy, although slow growth.
Watering: Water sparingly from March till October (weekly during summertime, if the weather is sunny enough), with a little fertilizer added. Less or no water during cold winter months, or when night temperatures remain below 10° to prevent root loss. It is sensitive to overwatering (rot prone).
Fertilization: Feeding may not be necessary at all if the compost is fresh then, feed in summer only if the plant hasn't been repotted recently. Do not feed the plants from September onwards as this can cause lush growth which can be fatal during the darker cold months.
Hardiness: Keep perfectly dry in winter at temperatures from 5 to 15 degrees centigrade. (but it is relatively cold resistant and hardy to -5° C, or possibly colder for short periods) In the rest period no high atmospheric humidity!! (Temperature Zone: USDA 9-11)
Crested growth: Unlike 'monstrose' varieties of plants, where the variation from normal growth is due to genetic mutation, crested growth can occur on normal plants. Sometimes it's due to variances in light intensity, or damage, but generally the causes are unknown. A crested plant may have some areas growing normally, and a cresting plant that looks like a brain, may revert to normal growth for no apparent reason. If you have any of the crested part left you need to remove the normal growth and leave the crested part behind this will need to be done regularly.
Propagation: Grafting or cuttings. Plants are usually grafted onto column-shaped cacti but proved to be able to produce their own roots if degrafted. Cuttings will take root in a minimum temperature of 20° C (but better in hot weather). Cuttings of healthy shoots can be taken in the spring and summer. Cut the stem with a sharp, sterile knife, leave the cutting in a warm, dry place for a week or weeks (depending on how thick the cutting is) until a callus forms over the wound. Once the callus forms, the cutting may be inserted in a container filled with firmed cactus potting mix topped with a surface layer of coarse grit. They should be placed in the coarse grit only; this prevents the cut end from becoming too wet and allows the roots to penetrate the rich compost underneath. The cuttings should root in 2 to 6 weeks. Large crested piece must be placed on the soil surface without burying the plant base down in the soil.
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